Haifa-born architect Moshe Safdie..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The names of the seven laureates of the prestigious Wolf Prize in the fields of medicine, architecture, agriculture, chemistry and mathematics were announced on Wednesday at a ceremony held at the President’s Residence. Two Israelis living in the United States – acclaimed Haifa-born architect Moshe Safdie, and Jerusalem-born Prof. David Zilberman who is an expert in agricultural and resource economics – are among the seven people who will be awarded the prize in the Knesset’s Chagall Hall at the end of May.
The other laureates, all professors, are Jeffrey Friedman from Rockefeller University, for the identification of Leptin, the hormone responsible for regulating bodyweight and obesity; Stephen L. Buchwald from MIT and John F. Hartwig from the University of California who share the chemistry prize; and Gregory Lawler from Chicago University, and Jean Francois le Gall from Paris Sud Orsay University, who share the prize for mathematics.
Figures present at the announcement included: President Reuven Rivlin; Education Minister Naftali Bennett who chairs the Wolf Foundation; Nobel Prize laureate and former Wolf Prize laureate Prof. Dan Shechtman, who is acting chairman of the Wolf Foundation Board; and Reut Inon Berman, the director general of the Wolf Foundation.
The timing of the event, during the period leading up to April 9 elections, was somewhat embarrassing because Bennett’s new party may not pass the 3.25% election threshold. Even if he holds unto his Knesset seat, he may not be a minister in the next government.
The Wolf Prize, which has been awarded in Israel since 1978, is an international honor regarded as being second to the Nobel Prize, and in some categories even equal to the Nobel Prize.
The $100,000 is awarded by the Wolf Foundation, which was founded in 1975 by Ricardo Wolf, a German-born inventor who served as Cuba’s ambassador to Israel. He had been offered the position of Minister of Finance, but declined and asked instead that he be appointed as Cuba’s ambassador to Israel. He was held in such high esteem that his request was granted, and in 1961 he presented his credentials to President Yitzhak Ben Zvi. Wolf valued excellence in agriculture, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, physics and the arts. In the latter category, the prize rotates between architecture, music, painting, and sculpture.
The awards ceremony traditionally takes place in the Knesset building with the participation of the President of Israel and other dignitaries.
Rivlin commented “There is nothing like the Wolf Prize to demonstrate Israel’s commitment to a better world.”
While the laureates are in Israel, several other events are held in their respective fields, so that each can share his or her knowledge and receive the respect due to them from fellow Israeli scholars and artists.